NORTHRIDGE, Calif. -
Looking to upset UCLA for the first time since 2008, Cal State Northridge put itself in prime position to earn a high-quality win on Tuesday afternoon at Matador Field. Unfortunately for the Matadors (6-11), the 11th-ranked Bruins (12-3) capitalized on six Northridge errors to escape the San Fernando Valley with a 5-4 win.
Northridge starting pitcher John Salas was locked in a pitcher's duel early with UCLA starter Cody Poteet, as the first hit of the game was not conceded until the top of the third inning. Salas made his second start for the Matadors after appearing mostly in relief during the first portion of the year.
"It's the same mindset," said Salas about pitching from both the bullpen and in a starting role. "You have to go out and hit your spots like you have all year in the fall and springs. I'll go in whenever I'm needed."
The Bruins nearly put together a big inning in the top of the first, but Salas was able to work out of danger. After walking the first batter of the game, Salas induced a fielder's choice before picking off Kevin Kramer from first base.
Pat Valaika benefitted from a three-base error that saw him cruise into third base after a dropped fly ball in the outfield. Salas then got Pat Gallagher on a ground out to end the inning.
Riding the wave of momentum, Salas struck out the side in the second en route to setting a new personal CSUN-high with four strikeouts.
The Bruins broke through on the scoreboard first, taking a 2-0 lead in the top of the third. With one out, Trent Chatterton doubled past the outstretched glove of first baseman Tommy Simis. He then came around to score on a two-out triple by Kramer.
Later in the third with runners on the corners, Salas went to pick off Valaika from first and caught him in a run down. As Kramer tried to advance and score from third, the ball was dropped at home plate.
Northridge erased the outcome of the errors temporarily and jumped out to a 4-2 lead in the home half of the third. Chester Pak drew a one-out walk and Michael Livingston drew a base on balls to put two men on with two outs.
Kyle Attl followed with the first CSUN hit of the game, an RBI single to left field that scored Pak. The next batter, Miles Williams, blasted a 2-2 pitch that cleared the trees over the left field fence for his Big West-leading fifth home run of the year.
"Coach Curtis sat down with me in the beginning of the year and we worked on my approach at the plate," Williams said about his increase in run production early in the season. "I am seeing the ball a lot better and am prepared for what they pitch to me and I have to thank Coach a lot for this work ethic."
UCLA chipped away at the CSUN lead and scored a single run in both the fifth and seventh innings to tie the game. Ty Moore scored on a ground out by Kramer in the fifth while Brian Carroll reached on an error and scored on another to even the score at 4-4.
The Bruins pushed across the eventual winning run in the top of the eighth after a close play at second base. With runners on first and second and one out, reliever Joshua Goossen-Brown got Chatterton to ground the ball to Ryan Raslowsky at third. As the Matadors attempted to turn the inning-ending double play, Moore broke up the throw with a slide at second and Nicolas Osuna's toss to first sailed.
On the error, Eric Filia came around to score for the Bruins.
Shay Maltese (0-1) allowed an unearned run in 0.1 innings to take the loss for the Matadors. Zack Weiss (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to get the victory for UCLA while David Berg logged the final two innings for his fourth save of the year.
"We are not that far away," said CSUN head coach Matt Curtis about the game and the team's performance against high-level competition this season. "We are a couple of plays from winning several of these games."
Williams led the Matadors offensively by going 2-for-4 with a run scored and three RBIs.
Cal State Northridge has a bye week this weekend and will next play against the CSU Bakersfield Roadrunners on Tuesday, March 19, at Matador Field. First pitch is scheduled for 3 p.m.